Asian flavors make Middle East entry at Gulfood expo

NEW DELHI: Coffee, spices and a variety of tropical fruits from Asia are making a splash at one of the Gulf’s biggest food expos this week, as countries seek to introduce the region’s unique flavors and products to the global market.
More than 5,000 participants from over 120 countries are taking part in the Gulfood 2023 exhibition — its biggest edition yet — which concludes on Friday in Dubai.
India’s pavilion is said to be the biggest this year, with about 300 companies and a spotlight on millets, a “nutri-cereal” that the UN has been promoting because of its nutritional value and sustainability. India is a leading producer of the grain.
“We regard Gulfood as a very important exhibition for India’s agriculture and food product exports,” Sunjay Sudhir, India’s ambassador to the UAE, told Arab News on Thursday.
“There is an increasing focus on millets this year because the UN has declared 2023 as the year of the millets,” he said. “You will find a lot of companies which make food products from millets also being represented in the Gulfood 2023.”
For some countries, taking part in the exhibition is imperative.
“It’s a must for us to participate,” Husin Bagis, Indonesia’s ambassador to the UAE, said.
“We are hoping that it will help boost our export, at least first to the UAE and later globally,” Bagis said, adding that Indonesia has been a regular participant at the event.
“The competition is tight, but thankfully Indonesia is known for its products; we have our cooking oil, our coffee, our spices.”
A Sri Lankan delegation led by the country’s Exports Development Board is also at the event, as the crisis-hit country looks to attract additional foreign business, particularly by tapping into the Middle East’s focus on food security, which surfaced after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions upended global supply chains.
“We can have a networking with them and capture new market opportunities created due to the COVID-19 situation,” EDB Assistant Director Gayani Wijetilake told Arab News.
“There are big emerging demands for products — natural, healthy products. We have that opportunity to promote our Sri Lankan brands.”
International visitors are also getting a taste of Filipino products at the exhibition, with the official delegation promoting products layered with flavors popular in the Philippines, such as banana and coconut.
“We’re so blessed with really tasty food products. We want to share it with people so that they can enjoy also the bounties of our land,” Assistant Secretary Glenn G. Penaranda, officer-in-charge of the trade promotions group under the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry, told Arab News.
Penaranda is on the final leg of an official trip to the region that began earlier this month, as the Philippines seeks to promote its food products to members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
“If our Arab friends tasted our products, that will really help further increase interest and a positive experience with our food products,” he said.
Ellie Aben in Manila, Mohammed Rasooldeen in Colombo, and Sheany Yasuko Lai in Jakarta contributed to this report.